Friday, September 14, 2012


The Finest line debuted in 1992, when Topps unveiled a 45-card boxed football card set. Collectors loved the metalized card fronts, but were underwhelmed by the chintzy backs.

Topps took the lessons learned from the production of this set, and launched Finest baseball the following year in silver mylar packs graced with an elegant Art Deco design. The backs were much improved, displaying full-color photos, biographical info, and previous year/career stats.

The packs carried a suggested retail price of $3.99, but they were up over $20 apiece almost immediately.

Much of the heat that the cards generated was due to the fact that Topps had provided collectors with the Rosetta Stone for the set by announcing production numbers: 4,000 12-box cases.

It didn't take long for people to then break out their slide rules and calculate the overall production numbers: 30,000 copies of each base card, 1,500 or so of the oversized box toppers, and just 241 of each refractor parallel.

Back in 1993, very few sets were serial numbered. Donruss had introduced the Elite inserts in 1991, which were numbered to 10,000 and considered quite rare. All but the most common players booked in triple digits.

So the fact that there were only 241 of each refractor made them seem almost unspeakably rare. I have a 1995 Beckett in front of me, and the Ryan lists for $1,200 while the Ripken goes for $2,000.

Of course, Doc's stock had fallen pretty far by 1995, so his card is not in that rarified air, instead settling in at the $100-$150 range.

Caution is advised when shopping for these 1993 refractors-- Topps did not mark the cards in any way, so it's fairly easy for regular-issue cards to be misrepresented (by accident or by design) in online auctions. I don't own many graded “modern” cards, but buying these slabbed can bring considerable peace of mind...